Q&A with Erna Basson: founder of Frula Beauty

Frula Beauty

Erna Basson

Erna Basson is a goal setter – and a goal achiever. Having turned her laser focus to creating an affordable range of clean but luxurious skincare, the result recently launched in supermarkets around New Zealand. Say hello to Frula Beauty.

The New Zealand-made collection stands apart from the crowd for its fruit + formula and the fact that aloe vera is the first main ingredient, not aqua (water).

Leading with aloe over water as the primary ingredient is more common in skincare products sold at high-end beauty retailers at much higher price points, but Erna wanted to buck the trend and this ingredient commitment was one of her key priorities in this passion project.

The South African-born entrepreneur shot into the New Zealand spotlight last year during her time on ‘The Apprentice Aotearoa’ (she finished fourth). Erna’s forthright solution-focused personality has propelled her through many life paths, and Frula Beauty has proved to be the ultimate journey in problem-solving.

With an awareness around the constant rising cost of living, Erna was looking for luxury natural skincare products that were budget-friendly and that worked on her sensitive, dry skin. When she couldn’t find what she was looking for, she did what she is renowned for. Set out to resolve the issue.

Frula Beauty is the result and launches with a carefully curated line of six products, while also ticking off Erna’s desire to create an affordable range of premium skincare. It’s also cruelty-free, vegan-friendly, free from SLS, SLES, and parabens, and in recyclable packaging. Quite the hit list!

Available in Countdown nationwide, as well as selected Pak’nSave and New World stores, and Costco NZ, the range includes 3 Phase Micellar Cleansing Water, Superfood 2 in 1 Exfoliator & Mask, Super Hydrating Moisturiser, Gentle Foaming Face Cleanser, Brightening Vitamin C Serum, and Reusable Face Cleansing Pads.

Where did you grow up and what were you interested in when you were younger?

I grew up in rural South Africa and am actually Afrikaans. I was a barefoot type of child who always played outside. As I grew up, we moved to the Freestate and I became very interested in netball. Being 1.8m tall truly does have its advantages, especially with a sport like netball. I really found my identity in this sport and 100% believe that playing netball is where I built my competitive edge and the need to be the best version of myself.

Our school was ranked number one in South Africa for netball, so you had to be the best to represent the school at such a level. It pushed me as a young athlete to strive to be the best by training more than was expected of me. To me, it’s all about the unseen hours that you put in. Sport also taught me a valuable lesson that “it’s not about how many times you fall, but how many times you get up after you have fallen.”

In my final year of school, I was training non-stop as my coach prepped me to be in the South Africa Under 19 squad, but that dream came shattering down when I injured my lower back and my pre-season was gone. After that injury, I could have decided to hang up my netball shoes but I didn’t. After my operation, I got straight back into rehab and after a couple of weeks was back training at my full potential.

Being an entrepreneur is very much like being a sportswoman, you can only succeed when you work really hard and push through any obstacles or setbacks that come your way.

What did you think your future career path would be when you were at school?

I wanted to become a lawyer when I was at school. This changed when I did a university open day and saw all the handbooks that I would have needed to learn. After that, I quickly made a 180-degree change and went on to complete a Bachelor’s Degree in Consumer Sciences.

What sparked your passion and the idea originally for Frula Beauty?

I have always been passionate about the beauty industry, as it is ever-changing. I have been using a natural skincare brand for years, which I purchase from Sephora, but it’s super expensive. I kept saying to my husband, I want us to create a luxury product just like this, with high active ingredients but I want to make it more affordable and accessible.

What made you determined to pursue it and create the brand?

I kept an eye on beauty trends, reporting and data. It showed me that there is a gap in the market for an affordable luxury high-end natural skincare product in FMCG. With the increase in living expenses off the back of the pandemic, it 100% confirmed that the timing was right to develop a brand like this. We have been looking at ingredients, formulas, packaging, etc. for years, and it was so exciting when it was finally time to jump onto this and go all in.

Why is the mindset behind Frula Beauty so important to you?

With Frula Beauty, we are solving problems. Women should not have to compromise on choosing between natural and affordable; they can have the best of both worlds with us.

What was the first product you started developing?

When we started development, it was on the entire range, but I would say the most difficult product was the Superfood 2 in 1 Exfoliator & Mask. It was so tricky trying to get the amount, size, and thickness of the walnut shells just right.

What is the greatest challenge of creating products without Aqua as the main ingredient?

Using Aloe Vera as our main ingredient makes our range more expensive to manufacture, but I truly wanted to give our customers that luxury experience without compromising on the quality.

Frula Beauty

The complete Frula Beauty range

What would you love everyone to know about Aloe Vera?

Aloe Vera is your friend in skincare and is known as “the magic plant”. Aloe Vera is super moisturising, hydrating, and soothing and is also an ideal ingredient for sensitive skin.

What are some of the other key ingredients and their properties that you’re proud to hero?

Our products are formulated differently using plant and fruit power to enhance them. As well as Aloe Vera, our products also contain Kakadu Plum, which contains the highest level of Vitamin C found in any fruit. A very special ingredient to me is the Kawakawa Oil in our moisturiser, which is a native plant found right here in New Zealand.

What are you most proud of in delivering this brand?

Teamwork. I am so very proud of every single team member for making this launch possible. We truly have an amazing team of young ambitious women.

What was the most challenging part of the journey to getting the brand to market?

I can definitely say the supply chain. We had so many delays with shipments, packaging, cardboard – the list goes on. This is where I learned another valuable lesson, that you can only control what is in your hands. You have to let go of the rest and trust that it will sort itself out.

What was the most enjoyable aspect of the process?

I am a creator, so for me, the best part was creating the brand concepts and then selling this to retailers. Seeing the final product on the shelf now still feels very surreal.

Three things you’d love everyone to know about Frula Beauty?

That it is a natural luxury clean skincare brand that is affordable and accessible without compromising on quality. We use Aloe Vera as our first ingredient, which is known as the “magic plant” in skincare. Frula Beauty is like a woman: beautiful on the outside and beautiful on the inside.

Where do you live now and what is your lifestyle like?

I live in Red Beach in Auckland’s North Shore with my husband and our two young boys, aged 10 and 8. My weekends are filled with sports, fishing, and braai (a South African-style BBQ).

What is something people might be surprised to know about you?

I am a very big rugby supporter, so much so that I have booked tickets for the Rugby World Cup in France 2023.

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